Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn-in to the honourable position on 11 August morning, has said the beauty and majesty of India's Parliamentary democracy is that it can lift a commoner like him to an exalted position and offer opportunities to discharge onerous responsibilities.
Addressing the Upper House, Naidu on 11 August recalled how he first entered the Rajya Sabha in 1998 and never in the faintest of his ideas, he thought that one day he would have the honour of presiding over as its chairperson.
"When I first entered this August house as a member in 1998, I never had even the faintest of any idea that one day I would have the honour of presiding over as its chairperson. This is the beauty and majesty of our Parliamentary democracy and its strength as well. It can lift a commoner like me to such an exalted position and offer opportunities to discharge onerous responsibilities that go with this position," he said.
Expressing gratitude towards people for reposing faith and confidence in him, Naidu said, "I would like to assure all of you that it shall be my endeavour to live up to your expectations."
Briefly reflecting on the origin and the role of the federal chamber of Parliament of India, Naidu said, "With its roots in the Monteague-Chemlsford Report of 1918, the Council of States first came into being in 1921 further to the Government of India Act, 1919, as a second chamber of the then legislature with a restricted franchise."
Naidu said as the world's largest democracy and fastest growing economy, India needs efficient and effective legislation to administer its processes, mobilise resources, build partnerships, ensure socio-economic equality etc.
"Time is not on our side. Even after 70 years of Independence, we are grappling with basic issues of poverty, illiteracy, inequality, agrarian and rural development challenges, abuse of power etc., even as some countries similarly placed at the time of our attaining freedom, are marching ahead with a lot more focus and a sense of urgency, marshalling their energies in a much better manner," he added.
Vice-President Naidu further stressed that for the success of an individual, institution or a nation "management of time is crucial".
"We don't have the luxury of time. We need to make up for the lost opportunities over the last seven decades, if our country were to realise its full potential, given its huge stock of human and natural resources and other advantages," the Vice-President said.
He said that the august house meets for much less than a hundred days per year and we should make the best use of this available time in furtherance of the cause of our country and the people.
"We take pride in our diversity and the unity that flows from it. If that be the case, can't we be united in the pursuit of common national goals and in enabling the Young India realise its aspirations? Our democratic polity allows flourishing of different ideas and thoughts on a range of socio-economic issues. But adversarial politics should not be allowed to adversely impact the functioning of the Parliament, which in turn impacts the progress of our nation," he added.
The Vice-President further said that political democracy is a sacred instrument for pursuit of national interests.
"But a fractious polity, finding its echo in the legislatures, impedes the forward march of our country and the people. No chamber of our Parliamentary democracy can be allowed to be an extension of such fractious polity," he said.
Naidu further said that every election gives the winner a mandate and the opposition, the responsibility of ensuring accountability of the executive.
"The Parliamentary democracy is all about numbers. But it does not necessarily mean that we reduce the functioning of our legislatures to a mere number game. The play of numbers should stop with the formation of governments and thereafter, it should be resorted to only in the rarest of the rare cases. An emerging economy like ours should be guided more by a shared destiny in the functioning of our legislatures," VP Naidu added.
Highlighting that the people of the country wish the Parliament to be the voice of sanity echoing their concerns and finding solutions to their problems, Naidu said that somehow there is a growing concern and resentment among the people over the way the Parliament is functioning.
"We need to seriously introspect over this palpable discontent with the people saying we are not doing enough still. We need to set an example for state legislatures by making suitable amendments to the way we speak and act here," he said.
"Effective functioning of the House is all about time and space management. Both the treasury and the opposition benches have defined space and time slots. We need to adjust ourselves within these set limits of time and space in the interest of better results. All that is needed is an attitude of give and take on the part of both the sides. This is possible through strategising for the effective functioning of the House rather than for its disruption. This needs an enlightened approach on the part of all concerned," he added.
Naidu said that it is unfortunate that obstruction and disruption of the proceedings is increasingly being chosen as the first parliamentary option in our legislatures across the country.
"This has serious implications for our parliamentary democracy. This option needs to be immediately replaced by a quest for effective debates and discussion to resolve issues and finding solutions to the problems being faced by our people," he said.
Further raising concern, the Vice-President said that we don't have to do different things to make good use of the opportunity of being members of this august house, all that we need to do is to do things differently and that is by intensely and passionately debating and discussing the issue rather than resorting to obstruction and disruption.
"I firmly believe in the Opposition having its say and the Government of the day, its way. This essentially means both the sides respecting and accommodating each other in the process," he said.
"All that I can and would like to do is to try to make you all speak and act to enable effective functioning of the House. I certainly can't be like a headmaster herding the errant students on the path of discipline. I know for sure that it won't work that way. It shall be my endeavour to promote an atmosphere of cordiality and trust in each other. Our nation needs a new normal in the functioning of our legislatures. It shall be my endeavour to enable this august house reach such a new normal with the cooperation of all of you," he added.
He said that nation building through all round and speedy socio-economic development is not the sole prerogative and responsibility of the Governments of the day and that it is a national task requiring national effort.
"The Opposition is an important stakeholder in this endeavour, while legislatures are the effective enabling forums. The best way of enforcing accountability of the executive by the opposition is to engage the Government and corner them in an informed debate. I am of the view that executive is the gainer if Question Hour is abandoned or a discussion on a matter of immediate public concern is derailed. The executive also needs to acknowledge that it is in their interest to take opposition on board since any legislation with the constructive support of opposition enhances the public esteem and acceptability of the laws made. A new normal in the functioning of our legislatures is possible with this enlightened approach," he said.
He further urged the members of the House to keep in mind the poorest and the most deprived before you say or do anything in the House.
"Let us be guided by the shining principles of our Constitution, the ideals of freedom struggle, the noble thoughts of great souls like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar and all other leaders who gave their sweat and blood for bringing our country this far. Always be reminded of the distance our nation still needs to travel before it gets due place in the comity of nations and ensure smile on the face of every citizen. Let us be guided by the right of the people for a better future," he said.
Assuring all that it shall be his earnest endeavour to uphold the dignity of the Office of Vice-President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha and live up to the trust people have reposed in me, he said, "I am at your service and always open to your suggestions for improving the functioning of this august House as per your collective wisdom."